In Appreciation of Tissa Devendra, 1929 -2023

Ashoka De Silva, in The Ceylankan 

Deshamanya Tissa Devendra passed away on 23rd June 2023 at the age of 94. Tissa joined the Colombo Chapter of the Ceylon Society of Australia (CSACC)on 7th March 2008. He was elected President of the of the CSACC in 2013 and remained in this position till the year 2020. He was also a Senior Administrative Officer of the Government of Sri Lanka.

Tissa leaves behind his wife, Indrani, children, Jaliya and Rashmi, brother Somasiri, sisters Yasmin and Ransiri Menike.

May he attain Nibbana.

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing away of Tissa Devendra, our beloved and highly esteemed former President and Convenor of the Colombo Chapter of the Ceylon Society of Australia (CSA CC) on June 22, 2023, following a brief illness.

Deshamanya Tissa Devendra was a well-known and respected civil servant, an accomplished author, and a writer who dedicated over 40 years of his life to the public service and UN Agencies. He graduated from the University of Ceylon, where he studied English and French, and also earned a postgraduate degree from the University of Cambridge. He held the distinction of being the first President of the Colombo University Alumni Association. Throughout his career, he served in various significant roles, including Chairman of the Public Service Commission and the Salaries Commission in the year 2000, as well as Chairman of the National Council for Administration. He contributed his expertise as a National Expert for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and was also a founding member of the George Keyt Foundation.

Tissa commenced his public service journey in 1953 as a District Land Officer (DLO) and spent the majority of his life working in kachcheries in different parts of the island. In 1968, he was awarded a scholarship to pursue studies at Cambridge University, and upon his return, he was appointed as the General Manager of the River Valleys Development Board (RVDB) in Walawe.

Subsequently, he served as the Government Agent (GA) of Matara, followed by a tenure as GA Trincomalee, which lasted for six years.  During the 1971 JVP insurgency, when the Kan- tale Police station was attacked, he was appointed as the Competent Authority for the Trincomalee District. Throughout this period, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Police reported to him as he chaired the Security Council for the district, possessing an unprecedented level of civilian authority over them. Additionally, he undertook the responsibilities of the GA Jaffna, frequently traveling by air between Trincomalee and Jaffna three times a week, earning him the nickname “the flying GA.” In total, he dedicated 40 years of his life to serving the public and working with the UN, with 22 of those years spent in the provinces.

Tissa was a passionate advocate for fostering closer bonds between the Sinhalese and Tamils, which unfortunately resulted in him receiving death threats. He was called upon by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government to handle the funeral arrangements when Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah, was tragically gunned-down by budding Tamil terrorists in mid- July 1975. The assassin was Prabahakaran, whose father, Velupillai, had previously worked under Tissa as the head clerk of the Land division in the Puttalam kachcheri—an ironic connection.

Similar to his late father, archaeologist DT Devendra, brother Lt. Commander Somasiri Devendra, and sister Ransiri Menike Silva, Tissa possessed a remarkable talent for writing articles and books. He authored six books, including “Sri Lanka – the Emerald Island” (1994) and “Tales from the Provinces” (1998), which was shortlisted for the Gratian prize. His other notable works include “On Horseshoe Street” (2005), “Memoirs of a pen-pusher, Kachcheris and Commissions” (2010), and “Quest for Shangri-La: Stories and Diversions” (2011). His book, “Princes, Peasants and Clever Beasts” (2002) won an award from the National Book Development Council.

In his later years, Tissa devoted much of his time to his passion for writing and cherishing moments with his beloved grandchildren. He was a loving husband to Indrani (nee Mivanapalana), a caring father to Jaliya and daughter Rashmi, and a cherished father-in-law to Himali Devendra and Sanath Ukwatte (Chairman of the Mt Lavinia Hotel). He brought immense joy as a doting grandfather to Saakya, Sahitra, Swyrie, and Elisha. Tissa was also a supportive brother to Yasmin Perera, retired Lieutenant Commander Somasiri Devendra, and Ransiri Menike Silva and as a brother-in- law to Dayadari Devendra.

May his soul find the ultimate peace and tranquillity of Nibbana.

AHEAD…. (By Tissa, on Tissa)

Ahead of me, I see and hear (but do not fear)

Time’s steam roller rumbling near.

Looking back of a life well spent As husband, father, grandparent

I did achieve some modest fame And did the State some service.

Of family and friends, fond memories, I keep

As one limps along to dreamless sleep.

That fantasy of heavenly bliss Long ago, I gave a miss.

One day soon, all this will end … The roller is just around the bend!


****   ****


Jews who left their footprint in Island Lanka






Lost and found: George Keyt’s unique masterpiece in The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka …………. › 

By Tissa Devendra … Keyt was a fine raconteur and while master film-maker Tissa Liyanasuriya and his team puttered around … The search begins  1984.



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4 responses to “In Appreciation of Tissa Devendra, 1929 -2023

  1. Chandra Maliyadde

    End of an era. I attended the funeral

  2. Sachi Sri Kantha

    I read with interest this well written eulogy of Tissa Devendra by Ashoka de Silva. By definition, an eulogy need NOT be accurate. My comments are related to the paragraph on the assassination of Alfred Duraiappah.

    Though it may be a fact that, ‘Prabahakaran, whose father, Velupillai, had previously worked under Tissa as the head clerk of the Land division in the Puttalam kachcheri’, but times were different in Jaffna of 1975, when Prabhakaran had his encounter with Duraiappah.

    Devendra’s eulogist should ask the question and verify WHY Duraiappah was assassinated. The simple reason was this: he was serving as a political pimp to the reviled police regime of Srimavo Bandaranaike which had instituted arbitrary arrest and detention of Tamil youth, following the 1971 JVP insurrection. I ask the eulogist had Devendra experienced such arbitrary arrest, detention and torture in the hands of police like the Tamil youths of 1970s, what he would have done as an alternative.

  3. Lam Seneviratne

    In later years Tissa was a regular at our Royal College over 70 years age category reunions for lunch. I enjoyed being in his company.

  4. Daya Wickramatunga.

    He was brilliant.

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